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Conservation and Care at Riverbanks

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden is dedicated to protecting the earth’s wildlife and wild places by increasing awareness and appreciation of them, providing the highest standards of care for the animal and plant collections on site and by conducting scientific research that benefits both captive and wild populations.

Riverbanks’ staff is active in a variety of efforts supporting conservation and science, including breeding programs for endangered species and participation in species survival plans, and maintains several world-class facilities on site dedicated to providing the best care possible.

In addition, the Zoo established a Conservation Support Fund in 1996 to provide financial support necessary to accomplish conservation efforts at Riverbanks and by other conservation biologists around the globe.

Because of its participation in animal management and conservation, Riverbanks consistently has ranked in the top-five North American zoos in terms of support for American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) programs.

Breeding Successes

Riverbanks Zoo & Garden has twice won the AZA’s prestigious Edward H. Bean Award, one of the top honors in the zoo world, for its conservation programs. The Zoo received the award most recently in 1997 for its work in breeding toucans, and was honored previously in 1981 for outstanding achievement breeding black howler monkeys. Riverbanks’ black howler breeding program, which at its peak was the largest captive collection in the world, has produced more than 25 viable births.

Golden lion tamarins are one of the few endangered species for which there is a captive breeding and release program. The golden lion tamarins residing at Riverbanks represent hope for saving a species, and two groups of Riverbanks’ golden lion tamarin offspring were reintroduced to the wild—in 1987 and 1990. The wild population of golden lion tamarins has increased in recent years to 600 in its native Brazil and there currently are about 500 golden lion tamarins in zoos.

Riverbanks participates in an international conservation effort to return the critically endangered Bali mynah to its native Indonesian habitat. There are fewer than 40 of these beautiful starlings left in the wild following years of habitat losses, poaching for the pet trade and numerous devastating environmental events. Years of diplomatic and organizational work and numerous trips to Indonesia by Riverbanks’ Bird Curator Bob Seibels have resulted in the successful release of about two dozen zoo-bred Bali mynahs into the wild since 1989. Seibels and other zoo professionals continue to work toward increasing the wild population of Bali mynahs through captive breeding and wildlife management strategies.

Species Survival Plan

As one of 214 accredited members of the AZA, Riverbanks participates in 28 of 155 Species Survival Plans (SSPs), which ensure that viable gene pools of selected endangered species are maintained in captivity. Riverbanks participates in SSPs for a variety of species, including Matschie’s tree kangaroos, koalas, African lions, western lowland gorillas and Aruba Island rattlesnakes.

The Best of Care

Riverbanks has one of the best-equipped and most highly regarded zoo veterinary facilities in the country and uses the most advanced medical equipment available in the veterinary world. Local surgeons and other specialists also frequently volunteer their services.

In addition, the Zoo boasts the BB&T Raptor & Endangered Species Clinic, which treats injured birds of prey and threatened species such as bald eagles and black bears brought in from around the state. Each year, the clinic treats hundreds of birds, many of which are able to recover and be released back in to the wild.

Conservation is an action anyone can take to help protect the earth’s animals, plants and natural resources, and it is a necessary endeavor if we are to maintain a diverse and living earth for future generations.